Congratulations to Gondy Leroy, Ph.D. (Investigator, Associate Professor, MIS) and Principal Investigators, Sydney Pettygrove, Ph.D. (Epidemiologist and Assistant Professor, UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health), and Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, MPH, MS, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, UA Department of Pediatrics and the UA Steele Center) on receiving research funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will help expand knowledge about children with autism spectrum disorder.
This funding is for the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, the only collaborative network to monitor the number and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities in multiple communities throughout the United States.
Gondy’s focus will be on the design and development of natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to automatically extract behaviors and triggers associated with ASD from the surveyed records. This will entail development of an autism specific lexicon and integration with rule-based and machine learning algorithms. Such algorithms will greatly decrease the amount of time and effort needed for clinicians to review in future ADDM network surveillance by highlighting relevant information and associated criteria.
Over the next four years, CDC will invest over $20 million to enhance tracking at eight existing sites and to launch two new sites. All 10 sites will track ASD among school-aged children, and six sites will also track ASD among pre-school aged children. “Thanks to the infrastructure we’ve built over the past decade, we know so much more about the number and characteristics of children with autism. Continuing this important work will help us shed light on emerging issues, such as the impact of the new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria on prevalence and gaps in early identification of children with autism,” says Dr. Coleen Boyle, Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
In addition to tracking, sites will also conduct analyses of the data to better understand increases over time in the number of children identified with ASD, and carry out education and outreach activities in their local communities.
Together, these sites will contribute to improved understanding of ASD and other developmental disabilities; improve understanding of the implications of the change in ASD diagnostic criteria; build stronger relationships with community partners; increase dissemination of ADDM Network data; and improve reliability and efficiency of CDC’s ASD tracking system.
Ultimately, these intended outcomes translate into improvements for children and their families. “We believe that the ADDM Network data can be used in communities across the country to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities live to the fullest,” adds Dr. Coleen Boyle.